I've been working on this piece for the magazine, and managed to finish a draft today. I wanted to put Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul" up here (you know for the "Been a long time, I shouldn't have left you") but I somehow I got diverted are started watching KRS-ONE's live shows. I love Rakim--still my favorite MC ever, with Raekwon and Nas coming in close. But KRS-ONE is almost a category to himself.
I didn't see KRS live until I was like 20 years old. Before then I knew him as a great MC, by which I mean an incredible lyricist with a great flow. But then I went away to college and saw him live. It's very hard to explain what happens (to this very day) at a KRS-ONE show. The first thing I need to say is KRS is a great, great performer--certainly the best rapper I've ever seen, and arguably the best performer I've seen bar none.
This is no small feat. I've never seen KRS with a band. He controls the crowd simply through voice and presence. For those of us who grew up controlling nothing, this has long had special meaning, and perhaps is key to understanding hip-hop's enduring power. At any rate, there are basically two KRS-ONEs. The first is the one I knew as a boy--an intellectual wordsmith, a philosopher. The second, the live one, I met later, is something else, something visceral and ferocious, something that represents beyond the artist himself.
The last time I saw KRS it was 1998. He came on stage and the baseline to "The Bridge Is Over" came on. He didn't say a word. He just walked the stage. The crowd went insane. People who'd never been to New York, or some no doubt from Queens itself, leaping in the air, chanting "The Bridge is over, The Bridge is over..." It was like his mere presence, the scowl on his face, his bop, combined with the music to transport us somewhere else.
This is nostalgia at its most powerful and meaningful. 1986 has a specific meaning to some of us. It's that era of Just-ICE, Mantronix and Sparky D, that moment just before hip-hop really broke (88, 89) and became one of the most significant artistic movement of the latter century. At that point it was really just a baby, but those of us who cradled it in the twin decks of our boom-boxes, out on porches, on benches, in projects, in dorm rooms, felt that we were watching something incredible happen. And then it did.
KRS represents that time--the Big Bang. His manic energy, his awkward freestyle, the way he mugs the crowd when "Still Number One" comes on. It's as if he takes in all of the dark energy of old, all that we felt on those streets addled with crack, haunted by Saturday Night Specials, drinks it and then radiates. You have to see him. Even now he is talismanic. A shaman of our lovely and painful past, who somehow stills move the crowd in this odd and different future.
I learned a long time ago to not speak of "greatest" anything in hip-hop unironically. But KRS has an actual claim to "greatest." There's nothing like him. I don't know that there ever will be.
Carrie Bradshaw, Hugh Hefner, and Barbie have all helped construct a new generation's ideal woman, who is athletic, alluring, ... and waxed.
Meet Sophia Pinto: the 21st century's standard-issue, all-American perfect 10.
The 5-foot-5 Minnesota native -- a sly, funny, 22-year-old natural blonde who spends every summer bikini-clad on the shores of Lake Minnetonka -- works out five days a week. Her slim waist and megawatt smile hearken back to the polyvinyl glamour of the original Barbie doll.
In fact, if Mattel were to redesign Barbie based on the new millennium's ideal woman, she would likely resemble Pinto. Healthy, athletic, alluring, and smart (Pinto will graduate early this month from Northwestern University), she's both a role model and a sex symbol.
And if you were to undress Pinto, you'd find she embodies yet another trademark characteristic of the plastic glamour girl-turned-careerwoman: Like Barbie, Pinto has no pubic hair.
The legend of the Confederate leader’s heroism and decency is based in the fiction of a person who never existed.
The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.
Memorial Day has the tendency to conjure up old arguments about the Civil War. That’s understandable; it was created to mourn the dead of a war in which the Union was nearly destroyed, when half the country rose up in rebellion in defense of slavery. This year, the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans has inspired a new round of commentary about Lee, not to mention protests on his behalf by white supremacists.
The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.
The scientists are all talking like it’s a sure thing.
On August 21, the “moon” will pass between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the light of the latter. The government agency NASA says this will result in “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.” The astronomers there claim to have calculated down to the minute exactly when and where this will happen, and for how long. They have reportedly known about this eclipse for years, just by virtue of some sort of complex math.
This seems extremely unlikely. I can’t even find these eclipse calculations on their website to check them for myself.
Meanwhile the scientists tell us we can’t look at it without special glasses because “looking directly at the sun is unsafe.”
Just seven months into his presidency, Trump appears to have achieved a status usually reserved for the final months of a term.
In many ways, the Trump presidency never got off the ground: The president’s legislative agenda is going nowhere, his relations with foreign leaders are frayed, and his approval rating with the American people never enjoyed the honeymoon period most newly elected presidents do. Pundits who are sympathetic toward, or even neutral on, the president keep hoping that the next personnel move—the appointment of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, say, or the long-rumored-but-never-delivered departure of Steve Bannon—will finally get the White House in gear.
But what if they, and many other people, are thinking about it wrong? Maybe the reality is not that the Trump presidency has never gotten started. It’s that he’s already reached his lame-duck period. For most presidents, that comes in the last few months of a term. For Trump, it appears to have arrived early, just a few months into his term. The president did always brag that he was a fast learner.
An analysis of Stormfront forums shows a sometimes sophisticated understanding of the limits of ancestry tests.
The white-nationalist forum Stormfront hosts discussions on a wide range of topics, from politics to guns to The Lord of the Rings. And of particular and enduring interest: genetic ancestry tests. For white nationalists, DNA tests are a way to prove their racial purity. Of course, their results don’t always come back that way. And how white nationalists try to explain away non-European ancestry is rather illuminating of their beliefs.
Two years ago—before Donald Trump was elected president, before white nationalism had become central to the political conversation—Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, sociologists then at the University of California, Los Angeles, set out to study Stormfront forum posts about genetic ancestry tests. They presented their study at the American Sociological Association meeting this Monday. (A preprint of the paper is now online.) After the events in Charlottesville this week, their research struck a particular chord with the audience.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?
Since 1907, Portland, Oregon, has hosted an annual Rose Festival. Since 2007, the festival had included a parade down 82nd Avenue. Since 2013, the Republican Party of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had taken part. This April, all of that changed.
In the days leading up to the planned parade, a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.” The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.” A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”
The nation’s current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history.
When did America become untethered from reality?
I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books.
Spreading fear and worry about issues you care about on social media can lead to burnout rather than action.
When New York Magazinepublished a story about the apocalyptic dangers of climate change last month, it was shared widely, and with alarm. People tweeted things like “Read this and get very, very scared,” or otherwise prescribed fear and worry as the appropriate reaction to the piece. They were mimicking the tone of the story itself, which starts by saying “It is, I promise, worse than you think,” and goes on to avowthat “no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough.”
This weirdly suggests that there is a level of alarmed that would be “enough.” Enough for what? Even if the goal is to alarm people into action, there’s a disconnect here: Anxiety is not a necessary prerequisite for action.